The treatment of neglected tropical diseases, as well as malaria, in developing countries was the focus of a recent conference in Washington, DC. The term “neglected tropical diseases” is used to describe a group of illnesses that don’t receive enough funding, due to the fact that although they hurt people, they don’t kill them. The conference was billed as “Global Health in the 21st Century – a Road Map for International Collaboration.” Participating organizations included The Carter Center, which addressed the topic “Fighting Neglected Diseases and Building Hope at the Grass Roots.” Teshome Gebre is the Carter Center’s country representative for health programs in Ethiopia. Dr. Gebre, who is based in Addis Ababa, has helped create four health programs in Ethiopia for the Center, among them the malaria control program. In Washington, he told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard that malaria is a “huge problem” in Ethiopia.
He said Ethiopia’s primary health facilities have between five and six million reported cases a year. The doctor adds that the rural health extension program is designed to treat patients with malaria in areas with a substantial number of unreported cases.
Gebre says the Ethiopian Ministry of Health is promoting three strategies: the first is to detect and treat cases as they occur, primarily using the new artemisinin-based combination therapy. The second is controlling mosquitoes -- the carriers of malaria -- with insecticides. The third is the use of mosquito nets, called LLINs (Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets). Gebre says the Ethiopian government has distributed 18 million bednets to about ten million households. He says the target is to distribute about 20 million bednets and adds, “we are very, very close and Global Fund and other partners, like the Carter Center, UNICEF, World Bank -- all are joining hands to achieve this goal.”
INTEGRATION TREATMENT IS EFFECTIVE
The Carter Center representative says the method known as integration – the process of distributing medications for different diseases at the same time – is being implemented in Ethiopia. Integration is used to treat not only the neglected tropical diseases, but also malaria. The doctor says, “We are trying to implement the control programs with the same health facilities, with the same health workers, with the same volunteers at the community level, combining the treatment and prevention strategies…”